The Golden Heard
Mongolia suffered greatly under the Chinese government's rule. Its culture and history was oppressed to the point that there's a current generation of young Mongolians who know nothing of their own language or culture. Recognizing what's at stake for their heritage if their past is lost, some Mongolians are fighting to recover the soul of their country through music. AnDa Union is helping to lead this revival. These young Mongolians recover, relearn and preserve the traditional songs of the many ethnicities that compose Mongolia, and they also create a new tradition of Mongolian folk music. Playing horsehead fiddles, the three-holed flute, mouth harps and the Mongolian version of the lute, the members of AnDa Union can sound like a herd of horses thundering across endless steppes or slip into the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane." AnDa Union brings its homeland to St. Louis at 7 p.m. Sunday, October 20, at the Edison Theatre on Washington University's campus (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-935-6543 or www.edisontheatre.wustl.edu). Tickets are $20 to $36.
— Paul Friswold
Flora No More
The human love of — and need for — living green organisms is well documented and long-established; it's confirmed in countless examples from folklore and art, and now science and medicine. The eminent Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson (read him if you haven't!) coined the perfect term for this innate feeling within us: "biophilia." Medical studies have shown that a patient recovering from major surgery will heal much faster if their hospital-room window has a view of trees outside, as opposed to one of just a blank wall or some other inorganic structure. We are enmeshed in nature's bio-web ourselves and cannot thrive if we're torn from it. Now imagine a bleak future stripped of botanical life. Not a pleasant scenario, but that's the educational one The Very Last Green Thing posits. This opera for children in grades two through eight is set in the year 2413 and is about a group of school kids who are raised and taught by an android. On a rare field trip outdoors one of them makes a weird and life-changing surprise discovery: the last surviving green organism on earth. The Very Last Green Thing is presented by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org). It's performed at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, October 26. Tickets are $10 to $12.
— Alex Weir
Soundtrack for A New World
Water in all its facets — flowing, pooling, astonishing us in violent plummets over mountain falls, rearing up to form colossal waves or just serenely still — moves us profoundly and always has. It's one of the most universal of human impulses: to make art inspired by water, that elemental necessity. Musicians of course employ water as a muse. You can hear it in rock songs such as Hot Tuna's evergreen instrumental "Water Song," or the Doobie Brothers' lovely ode to the Mississippi, "Black Water." You can chart that channel's run through numberless folk, blues and country standards. And you can certainly hear it in the grand concert hall, as classical composers from the earliest periods have written great works hymning water's hold on our psyches. Our own Saint Louis Symphony's assistant principal viola player, Christian Woehr, continues the tradition with his Water Worlds, A Musical Journey. This concert at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium (Clayton and Faulkner drives; 314-289-4400 or www.slsc.org) is performed by the Strings of Arda in association with the Saint Louis Science Center on Monday, November 4, and will feature visuals synched up to the music of three world-premiere pieces composed by Woehr. The material is inspired by the search for life in the wet worlds of the universe. The 7 p.m. event is free but reservations are very much recommended; additionally, the program is intended only for adults.
On the Wings of Love
Romeo and Juliet may be the Western world's standard for star-crossed lovers, but they're not the sole example of beautiful people meeting ugly ends in the name of love. In China, the tale of the Butterfly Lovers is just as familiar and just as tragic. Zhu is a young woman who disguises herself as a boy to attend school, and ends up falling in love with her fellow pupil, Liang. Zhu is already betrothed to the violently jealous Ma, who slays Liang when the young student confesses his feelings for Zhu. Zhu then goes full-Juliet, killing herself to spend eternity with her dead paramour. There's more of a happy ending here, as Liang and Zhu are reunited as butterflies in the afterlife. The Shanghai Ballet presents this bittersweet tale of love and loss at 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (November 8 and 9), at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org). Tickets are $35 to $45.